CARSON, California - FC Dallas U16 and Chicago Fire U18 are the 2014-2015 Development Academy National Champions. The rain soaked field could not slow down either side on their quests for titles after a year of historical feats.
FC Dallas started the night with a 4-0 win over New York Red Bulls. The kick off for the game was delayed by over an hour due to weather, but Dallas relied on previous experiences to help navigate through postponement.
“The rain delay was not anything new to us. We had a delay midway through our playoff game in Indiana,” FC Dallas U16 head coach Luchi Gonzalez told TopDrawerSoccer. “It tested us. It showed that we can be patient. We can focus and then refocus. It allowed us to grow and mature. From that experience, it helped us deal with the delay today. When kickoff started, I don’t think we missed a beat.”
New York’s tactic from the opening whistle was to try to test the Dallas center backs with long balls forward and hope for a good skip on the wet ground. New York had two looks in the opening five minutes. FC Dallas goalkeeper Ben Hale came up with saves on shots from Jeanpaul Marin and Mason Deeds to keep it scoreless through the opening phase.
FC Dallas gained control of the game shortly after the double save from Hale.
In the 11th minute, Dallas took the lead. Forward Giovanni Montesdeoca won the ball in a dangerous spot. He fought off a challenge and then floated the ball into the 18-yard-box. Weston McKennie leapt to the clouds and headed it home for the first goal of the game.
“God gifted me with the talent to jump,” McKennie told TopDrawerSoccer. “I saw the ball come in and I knew I had to get up and win it. My team trusts me to win the first ball and I had to do it.”
Three minutes later, FC Dallas broke down the New York defense and sent in Toshiki Yasuda for a chance from the right flank. Yasuda drilled his shot low, but it went right into the arms of New York goalkeeper Xavier Kennedy.
New York tried to respond with numbers forward, which resulted in left back Noah Powder getting a look at goal from 20 yards out. Powder pulled his shot wide though.
FC Dallas had another chance to extend the lead to two goals in the 23rd minute when Yasuda’s corner kick found Hector Montalvo wide open eight yards from goal. Montalvo’s shot went over the bar though.
Dallas did break through in the 31st minute when Montesdeoca turned his defender and bullied his way into the 18-yard box. Montesdeoca ripped his shot at the far post. Kennedy did well to get his hands to it, but there was too much power on the slick ball for Kennedy to keep it out of the net.
FC Dallas never took their foot off the gas and kept pushing for another goal before half. Yasuda played in a perfect cross to Damian Hernandez with just one defender in the area. The defender missed on the ball and Hernandez was in on goal, but he tripped on the slick ball and his weak shot resulted in a save for Kennedy.
Seconds before the half time whistle, FC Dallas right back Reginald Cannon got in behind the NY defense before he was tripped. Montesdeoca hit the free kick off the crossbar though.
Dallas pushed the lead to 3-0 less than a minute into the second half. Kevin Vega picked up a flicked on header and put the ball into the net as New York defenders stood by watching after the assistant referee raised his flag for offside. The referee ruled that an NY defender had flicked on the pass, which kept Vega in an onside position.
Hale had to make one more great save in the second half to keep the shutout. With 20 minutes left, Sean Teixeria snuck into the box and had a clear look at goal from 15 yards out. Hale did well to get setup before he hit the shot and then dove to push the effort wide of the goal.
“I read that one pretty clearly. I made it look spectacular, but I was just doing my job,” Hale told TopDrawerSoccer. “I owe most of the credit to the defenders. I can only take some credit, I have to give most of the credit to them. They did a fantastic job.”
In the final seconds of the game, FC Dallas put the finishing touches on the performance. Juan Ramirez scored on a good movement from the Texas side to push the lead to 4-0 before the final whistle.
FC Dallas finished its playoff run without conceding a goal during the six-game stretch.
“We’ve been telling each other that family is key and we’ve had each other’s backs,” McKennie said. “It’s a true blessing to get to the final and win the final and not have a goal scored on us. We set a goal in the beginning that we wanted to get a shutout in every game - I’m pretty sure no other team has ever done that so it’s a big accomplishment for us.”
Chicago Fire U18 3-1 Real Salt Lake AZ U18
It was another heartbreaking defeat in the championship game for RSL. The residential academy advanced to the title game in the U16 age group last year, but came up short against LA Galaxy. History repeated itself on Saturday.
Chicago Fire opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Oscar Gonzalez’s long-range bomb hit off the post and bounced out for right back Mike Jimenez to head into the net.
The problem of conceding a goal shortly after scoring did not plague Fire during the championship tilt. Chicago buckled down after the goal and kept RSL at bay.
The early strike gave Fire plenty of confidence to push for another goal. Jimenez tried to summon a lightning bolt with a shot from 30 yards out, but RSL goalkeeper Luis Barraza pushed the shot away.
Fire doubled the lead shortly before half when Andrew Gutman managed to dribble through a couple of weak challenges from RSL defenders before he juked one more defender and then rolled his shot into the goal.
A two-goal lead at the break gave Fire plenty of energy after playing a tough overtime game on Thursday. Fire continued to out hustle RSL and reap the rewards of hard work.
Three minutes into the second half, Fire nearly put the game away. Ryan Sierakowski broke free of the defense and was one on one with Barraza. The goalkeeper managed to get a paw on Sierakowski’s ambitious chip effort, which kept the ball out of the goal.
RSL struck its lone goal of the game in the 50th minute. A foul 35 yards from goal provided an opportunity for RSL to catch Fire disorganized. RSL took the free kick quickly and Amar Sejdic ended up hitting a laser into the net from 30 yards out.
With 20 minutes left in the game, Fire restored the two-goal lead. Gutman played in a cross that an RSL defender kicked in his own net.
RSL tried to throw the kitchen sink at the Fire defense late, but the record-shattering offense could not break down the well-organized side. A lot of hopeful crosses into the box highlighted the final stage of the game while Fire secured the title.